NEWS
May 27, 2020

These 4 Nurses Came Out of Retirement To Help The Frontlines (1 Was Trained By Her Son)

Older nurse holding folder
Sarah Jividen By: Sarah Jividen

Just as travel nurses packed up their lives to travel to coronavirus "hot spots," retired nurses are re-entering the healthcare workforce in droves to help fill the gaps in nursing care.

Here are several examples of retired nurses who re-ignited their healthcare careers after many years to aid in the COVID-19 crisis. These nurses faced challenges and fear of coming back during a pandemic. But they did it anyway, showing courage and compassion as they returned to help save lives despite often putting themselves at risk.

States are making it easier for retired nurses to work.

In Memphis, Tina Gerardi of the Tennessee Nurse Association stated that "the number of retired nurses that are seeking to get their license back tripled in March. So we are seeing a response to the plea for retired nurses to come back."

Since then, governors across the country have helped the situation by making it possible for retired nurses to come back quickly, issuing orders that loosen restrictions for retired medical professionals who want to get back in the workforce to help with the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Retired nurses in Wisconsin return to telehealth.

In April, the University of Wisconsin Healthcare system re-hired more than a dozen retired nurses to staff the COVID-19 hotline, the telehealth platforms, infection control, and the post-anesthesia care unit.

Sue, a retired nurse from UW, said she has a friend at the university who reached out to ask if she was interested in coming back to work during COVID-19. She explained that she had no hesitation and said, "I knew exactly what I needed to do."

She became one of almost a dozen retired nurses to return to work as a telehealth nurse.  Together they have helped UW care for over 10,000 concerned calls about the COVID-19 crisis.  

Another retired nurse, Beth Sommerfeldt, also explained why she had no hesitation with coming back to help. "I felt like when all this pandemic was unfolding, I felt like I was in the wrong place, sitting at home and sipping my coffee and I needed to give back, so that's why I'm here," Sommerfeldt stated in an interview with a local news station.  

"A lot of people are afraid, what is their fear, their actual symptoms, and from there, we help guide them," she said.

2. This retired nurse returned to work after 20 years - and is being trained by her son - who is a nurse.

Mother and son healthcare workers in hospital

One of the best nurse-return-from-retirement stories is this one about a mother returning to the nursing workforce, and now her son gets to train her.

There have been many parent and child trainees over the years, but you rarely see the child training the parent.

This week he posted on Reddit, "My Mom decided to reactivate her nursing license after 20 years. I get to teach her!" His post went viral with responses from "that is so beautiful!" and "thank you and happy Mother's Day,” to concerns over her health risks due to her age and lack of PPE.

3. Retired Nurse Practitioner returns to work in Pennsylvania to help during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For Carolyn Haskell, CRNP, RN, returning to the workforce to help fight COVID-19 was a choice to "wake up each day grateful for another opportunity to do something positive."

Haskell, a former military nurse with 23 years of experience working in infection control, says she knew she was needed. "I knew I wanted to go back," she said. "I emailed my supervisor and was at work the next day."

"I'm blessed with good health and financial stability, and I feel like I should be out helping people who may not have those same blessings," she says. "I'm not the person to sit at home all day. As long as they find me helpful, I'll be there."

4. Seattle nurses come out of retirement to help.

Carolyn Grant, a 63-year-old retired nurse from Seattle, also knew she wanted to return to work to help fight COVID-19. She is one of several retired nurses who returned to the University of Washington to help fight when the coronavirus outbreak started there.

Grant, who is at high-risk of COVID-19 complications due to asthma, is now working with the hospital's COVID-19 testing program.

"When you work somewhere 22 years, they are your family," Grant said. "So I felt like I wanted to come back and help them. I knew they would be facing some very difficult times."

She says she will stay for as long as she is needed, and remains healthy, to help fight the pandemic.

Once a nurse, always a nurse.

The efforts of many retired nurses going back to work to help with the COVID-19 pandemic is inspiring. But nurses often have to leave the workforce for a multitude of reasons - having a baby, choosing to stay home with little ones, moving to a new city, or recovering from cancer or other illness - and returning to work can be extremely hard.

But if retired nurses can come back to work in healthcare, some after decades, they may even inspire others to return to their careers when the time is right for them.

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